Quote Of The Day: Consider A Birdcage

From another Deep Rifts™ post at Butterflies and Wheels:

Nadai wrote:

I get the feeling quite often that at least some of the people doing it think each separate incident should be looked at separately and not counted as part of the whole scheme of things. Which is pretty stupid.

It’s an old, old tactic of anti-feminists. Marilyn Frye had a lovely quote about it in her 1983 essay “Oppression” in Politics Of Reality – Essays In Feminist Theory:

Cages. Consider a birdcage. If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires. If your conception of what is before you is determined by this myopic focus, you could look at that one wire, up and down the length of it, and be unable to see why a bird would not just fly around the wire any time it wanted to go somewhere. Furthermore, even if, one day at a time, you myopically inspected each wire, you still could not see why a bird would have trouble going past the wires to get anywhere. There is no physical property of any one wire, nothing that the closest scrutiny could discover, that will reveal how a bird could be inhibited or harmed by it except in the most accidental way. It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere; and then you will see it in a moment. It will require no great subtlety of mental powers. It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon.

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, social justice

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6 replies

  1. I think this is one of the most beautiful things I have read this year.

  2. That’s a keeper, that one.

  3. I love it too, but can you fix the typo?

    you still could not see why a bird would gave trouble going past the wires

    Seems to me that the g in gave should rather be an h in have.

  4. The mosaic analogy you pulled out of a previous thread on the same topic makes up a neat pair of bookends with this one.

  5. Oh to be able to pin this. Must. Save. Somewhere…

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